The Vancouver Canucks may have dodged a bullet as the team learned Wednesday that netminder Roberto Luongo is only expected to miss about a week's worth of action after suffering a hairline fracture in his ribs.
Luongo originally suffered the injury during this past Saturday's victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs where the Montreal native made 35 saves.
"It was a bad angle shot from (Leafs' forward Niklas) Hagman in the corner and I just kind of went one knee down and the puck just hit me in the seam of my chest protector," Luongo told reporters following Canucks' practice Wednesday. "It kind of hurt, but the adrenaline was going so I finished the game."
He appeared to aggravate the injury in Tuesday's loss to the Red Wings during a second period collision with Todd Bertuzzi.
While Luongo was able to complete the game, he did allow four third period goals and did not speak to the media following the loss. He was also noticeably absent from the ice at Canucks' practice on Wednesday, but he did speak to reporters afterwards and remains optimistic towards a quick return.
"There is no definite timeline, because it's really about the amount of pain that you've got there," Luongo said. "I'm definitely not playing these next two games."
"It's frustrating because I was really starting to feel good about my game and how the team was playing."
Backup Andrew Raycroft will get his first start of the season Thursday against the Los Angeles Kings while Cory Schneider has been recalled from Manitoba of the AHL to replace Luongo who will not travel with the team on their two game California road trip. Raycroft is looking forward to the opportunity.
"It's exciting," Raycroft told reporters. "I've been practicing well and hopefully I'll go and play well."
Canucks' forward Mason Raymond told The TEAM 1040 in Vancouver that he did not expect the Canucks to be without their best player for too long and that the team would be able to manage without him for the time being.
"For us, I guess we've got to keep carrying on and Andrew (Raycroft) is excited to get in there and he'll play well for us and we'll be good in front of him," Raymond told The TEAM.
The fact that the injury does not appear long term should be a breath of fresh air to the Canucks as the injury bug has taken a major bite out of the team so far this season. Sniper Daniel Sedin is out for up to six weeks with a broken foot while forward Pavol Demitra has yet to play this season following shoulder surgery. Jannik Hansen is also on injured reserve after breaking a bone in his right hand and is expected to miss up to two months. In addition Kyle Wellwood suffered a broken toe last week while defenceman Sami Salo remains out with a sprained right MCL. To compound matters, forward Ryan Johnson also left Tuesday's game with a neck injury.
Head coach Alain Vigneault realizes injuries are something that every team deals with, however he also realizes the difficulty in finding suitable replacements.
"We're like any team in the NHL, when you have injuries to your key guys, it's a challenge," Vigneault stated. "You don't replace a Roberto Luongo, you don't replace a Daniel Sedin."
He also realizes that the team will likely have to alter the way they play so that they can successfully compete during Luongo's absence.
"We've got a big challenge in front of us here and we're playing a lot of games in few nights so we're going to have to have the mentality of one game at a time and make sure our guys stay a very high percentage and try to put a plan together to give us the best chance to win."
The team went 9-12-3 last season when Luongo missed 24 games with a groin injury.